Proposal to use SPM trial results not appropriate – NUTP

KUALA LUMPUR: Suggestions that the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) trial results be used to replace the actual examination seem inappropriate, said the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

Explaining the matter, NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said the SPM trial examination was a method for teachers to identify the abilities and weaknesses of their students before they sit for the actual examination.

He said the standard of the SPM trial examination was not equivalent to the actual SPM, which had an assessment in line with international standards.

“SPM trial examination has no benchmark with international standards, therefore, it is not fair to use the trial results to replace the actual SPM.

“Even without the trial exams, teachers still have other approaches that can be done as preparations for SPM students throughout the school sessions this year before SPM examination begins,” he said when contacted by Bernama here yesterday.

He was commenting on suggestions by some parents that the SPM examination be cancelled and the SPM trial results be graded as the actual result.

Yesterday, through the list of frequently asked questions (FAQ), the Education Ministry said that the 2020 SPM trial examination need not be carried out by schools which have not conducted it and that it would not affect the students’ opportunity to further their studies at public higher learning institutions.

Harry said it was important for teachers and SPM students to focus on preparing for the SPM examination, adding that the decision to cancel the trial exams would at least ease the pressure faced by affected candidates in the flood-hit and Movement Control Order (MCO) areas.

In SABAH, parents of SPM candidates believe that any decision regarding SPM, including postponing the examination dates or using the trial examination results as the actual result, should be fair to the students.

A village head of Lokub in Kiulu, Unus Limun, 46, said the move to protect students from the spread of COVID-19 was good but it was unfair to use SPM trial results as the actual result.

“The trial examination is to see our children’s achievements and to improve their weaknesses before sitting for the actual examination,” he told Bernama yesterday.

For 45-year-old Runah Bernadus, who works as a nursery assistant in Tawau, disagreed with the suggestion, saying it was unfair for students who hoped to do their best in the actual examination.

“In my opinion, the trial exam should not be an indicator of actual performance because students who get poor results during the trial will be hoping to do better in the actual examination,” she said.

Last Saturday, the MOE  announced that the face-to-face school session commencing tomorrow for the whole country would only involve students sitting for the SPM, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM), Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM), and Malaysian Vocational Diploma (DVM) as well as equivalent international examinations last year.

The ministry has decided to move the dates for SPM, SVM and STAM to Feb 22 while gthe STPM will be held on March 8. — Bernama


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Nepal team claim first winter ascent of Pakistan’s K2

A Nepali team has claimed the first winter ascent of K2 (C, pictured in summer) in the Karakoram range. – AFP photo

A team of Nepali climbers made history on Saturday after becoming the first to summit Pakistan’s K2 in winter, on the same afternoon a Spanish mountaineer fell and died lower down the perilous peak.

Dozens of climbers have been competing over the past few weeks to summit the world’s second highest mountain, the last peak above 8,000 metres (26,000 feet) to be topped in wintertime.

“WE DID IT,” tweeted Seven Summit Treks, a trekking company leading one of the expeditions.

“The Karakorum’s ‘Savage Mountain’ been summited in most dangerous season: winter. Nepalese climbers finally reached the summit of Mt K2 this afternoon at 17:00 local time.”

But the success was overshadowed by the death of a Spanish climber, Sergi Mingote, lower down the mountain.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described him as a “great sportsman” on Twitter, writing: “He wanted to keep on making history… and a tragic accident ended his life.”

The Alpine Club of Pakistan said in a statement that the climber fell while descending to Base Camp shortly before 4 pm.

Secretary Karrar Haidri added the club was helping to coordinate the evacuation of the body, but with weather conditions expected to be poor overnight, it would be done on Sunday morning.

The name “Savage Mountain” comes from the punishing conditions there — winds can blow at more than 200 kilometres per hour (125 miles per hour) and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

Since the maiden attempt in 1987-1988, just a handful of winter expeditions have been tried on the storied 8,611-metre (28,250-foot) peak in the Karakoram range along the Chinese border.

None had got higher than 7,650 metres until Saturday, when the good conditions allowed the successful team to push ahead.

The 10 Nepali climbers had earlier been spread across different teams, but formed a new group in order to claim the feat in Nepal’s name.

– ‘The recognition we deserve’ –

Despite being famed for their climbing expertise, there has never before been a Nepali climber on the first winter ascent of a peak over 8,000 metres.

One of the triumphant climbers, Nirmal Purja, who is also known as Nimsdai, described it as a “very special moment”.

“The whole team waited 10m below the summit to form a group then stepped onto the summit together whilst singing our Nepalese National Anthem,” wrote Purja in a social media post.

“We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible.”

At least one of the climbers, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, had planned to reach the summit without using oxygen.

The news sparked joy throughout Nepal, long used to watching foreign climbers seize the records.

“For decades, Nepalis have assisted foreigners to reach the summits of the Himalayas, but we’ve not been getting the recognition we deserve,” said renowned Nepali climber Kami Rita Sherpa, who has climbed Everest a record 24 times.

“The spotlight has always been on foreign climbers. It is wonderful that today on K2 ten Nepalis have made history and shown our bravery and strength.”

Nepali guides, usually ethnic Sherpas from the valleys around Everest, are considered the backbone of the climbing industry in the Himalayas for bearing huge risks to carry equipment and food, fix ropes and repair ladders.

“Sherpas are top climbers of the world, and it is a proud moment for us. But reaching the summit is only the first half. We hope now that they can all make it back down safely,” warned Ang Tshering Sherpa, the former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

– A lonely place –

One of the final technical difficulties to be overcome by the group was the dreaded “bottleneck”, a narrow and steep passage where 11 people were killed in August 2008 in K2’s worst known tragedy.

Many climbers have died trying to reach the summit, while others were killed on the dangerous descent.

Lockdowns and travel bans sparked by the coronavirus pandemic meant the summer climbing season last year was a bust in most of the popular climbing destinations in the region, such as Nepal.

With Pakistan’s borders open and few other places to go, this winter an unprecedented four teams totalling around 60 climbers converged on the mountain, more than all previous expeditions put together.

Unlike Mount Everest, which has been topped by thousands of climbers young and old, K2 is a much lonelier place.

Northern Pakistan is home to some of the world’s tallest mountains, including K2 in the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Nestled between the western end of the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush mountains and the Karakoram range, Gilgit-Baltistan has 18 of the world’s 50 highest peaks. – AFP

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Emergency proclamation not against democratic norms – Kamarudin

Kamarudin Jaffar

KUALA LUMPUR: The proclamation of emergency is not against the principles of democracy as it is clearly enshrined in Article 150 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar said the Article clearly stated that it is necessary to declare the state of emergency if security, or economic life, or public order is threatened.

He said, the emergency proclamation is only aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

“It will also ensure that the government can function better without any disruption and irresponsible action from any party that can undermine efforts to fight Covid-19 and achieve economic stability,” he said in a statement today.

Yesterday, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah proclaimed an emergency that would be enforced up to Aug 1 as a proactive measure to contain the worsening Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia.

Datuk Pengelola Bijaya Diraja of Istana Negara, Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, said in a statement that His Majesty decreed that the emergency be in force up to that date, or earlier if the number of positive Covid-19 cases can be effectively controlled and reduced.

Kamarudin brushed off claims that the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was using the emergency proclamation to avoid the general election from being held.

“Taking the Sabah State Election as a lesson, the Prime Minister no longer wants to make political decisions that will do more harm than good to the people in line with the principle of hifz al-nafs in the Maqasid Syariah (the most important objectives of Syariah).

“In fact, the Prime Minister has given the assurance that the general election will be held soon after the pandemic subsides,” said Kamarudin who is also the Bandar Tun Razak member of Parliament.

As such, he said, it is very important for all parties regardless of their political ideologies to set aside differences for the time being and work with the government to immediately break the Covid-19 infection chain. — Bernama

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Support for Olympics hits new low in Japan: poll

Tokyo 2020 organisers have already said another delay is out of the question. – AFP photo

Support for holding the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo Olympics this summer has hit a new low in Japan, a poll found Sunday as the country battles a third wave of infections.

Just over 80 percent of those asked by Kyodo news agency said the huge global event should be cancelled or postponed again — a jump from around 60 percent in a December 6 survey by the same outlet.

Kyodo said the survey asked 1,041 participants nationwide, who were selected by random dialling.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have said another delay is out of the question and are insisting the Games will go ahead despite a state of emergency declared in the greater Tokyo area this week over a surge in Covid-19 cases.

In Sunday’s national telephone poll, around 35 percent of people told Kyodo they favoured outright cancellation, while some 45 percent said the event should be postponed a second time.

The month-long emergency in the capital and surrounding regions is less strict than harsh lockdowns seen elsewhere in the world and primarily targets restaurants and bars, which have been asked to close early.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said this week that Japan is committed to holding a “safe and secure” Olympics.

He said he believed the public mood will change when the country begins vaccinations, currently scheduled for late February.

But senior International Olympic Committee official Dick Pound told the BBC he could not “be certain” the Games will go ahead, because “the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus”.

Public sentiment towards the Olympics in Japan has been less than optimistic for months.

Two polls in July showed the majority thought the event should be postponed again or cancelled, while a survey released in December by national broadcaster NHK found that only 27 percent of respondents supported holding the Games in 2021. – AFP

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After RoS rejection, Pejuang to appeal to Home Minister on registration

Pejuang pro tem chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the party would abide by every law and regulations set to ensure the party’s registration is approved. Bernama Photo

PUTRAJAYA: Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) will submit an appeal to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin today, after its application to register as a political party was rejected by the Registrar of Societies (RoS).

Pejuang pro tem chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the party would abide by every law and regulations set to ensure the party’s registration is approved.

“We received information from the RoS that Pejuang’s application for registration has been rejected. We have worked on this for so long; we tried to adhere to all directives, legislation, regulations to register our party but it was rejected,” he told a news conference here yesterday.

Meanwhile, Pejuang secretary-general Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah said according to the RoS, the application did not meet the requirements of Schedule 1 of the Societies Act 1966 and was rejected under Section 7(3)(e) of the same act.

“We have reviewed this and we opined that we have complied with all conditions set in Schedule 1. In fact, we have met with RoS, and they suggested several amendments to the party’s constitution. We resubmitted our application after making the changes,” he explained.

Earlier, Pejuang was reported to have withdrawn its application for leave for judicial review that was filed to challenge the action of the RoS which had yet to approve the party’s registration, after it was informed of the rejection.

Meanwhile, asked on the cancellation of the Kuala-Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, Dr Mahathir said it was not an important project and Malaysia could wait for 20 to 30 more years to implement it.

“Because for this system, we have to travel far to save in terms of time. The project is only 230km and the most amount of time you can save is about 15 minutes.

“For that 15 minutes you have to pay much more money; worse still, the cost of building HSR has gone up to almost RM80 billion. We’ll never get back our money,” said the former prime minister.

On Jan 1, Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong, in a joint statement, said the HSR project had been terminated, as both countries failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia before the project agreement lapsed on Dec 31, 2020. — Bernama


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Trump, Biden campaign in Georgia for crucial Senate races

US President Donald Trump is to campaign in Georgia for Republican Senate candidates. – AFP photo

President Donald Trump, still seeking ways to reverse his election defeat, and President-elect Joe Biden converge on Georgia on Monday for dueling rallies on the eve of runoff votes that will decide control of the US Senate.

Trump, a day after the release of a bombshell recording in which he pressures Georgia officials to overturn his November 3 election loss in the southern state, is to hold a rally in the northwest city of Dalton in support of Republican incumbent senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Biden, who takes over the White House on January 20, is to campaign in Atlanta, the Georgia capital, for the Democratic challengers, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Loeffler, 50, who was appointed to the Senate in December 2019 after the serving senator resigned for health reasons, is taking on Warnock, the 51-year-old African-American pastor at the Atlanta church where the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr once preached.

Perdue, 71, a former CEO of Dollar General who was elected to the Senate in 2014, is running against Ossoff, the 33-year-old head of a television production company.

Georgia has been a reliably Republican state but Biden defeated Trump by around 12,000 votes in the Peach State and polls have both Senate races neck-and-neck.

Republicans hold 50 seats in the Senate and a victory in just one of the runoff races would give them the majority and the ability to thwart Biden’s agenda.

A Democratic sweep would result in a 50-50 split in the Senate with Democrats holding the tie-breaking vote in Vice President Kamala Harris.

The 78-year-old Biden is expected to speak around 4:30 pm (2130 GMT) while the 74-year-old Trump is scheduled to take the stage in the evening in Dalton, a city of around 30,000 people in a rural, conservative Georgia district.

– ‘Find 11,780 votes’ –

The Georgia rallies come a day after the publication by The Washington Post of a shocking recording of Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that rocked Washington.

On the tape, Trump tells Raffensperger he wants to “find 11,780 votes” — one more than Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia — and makes vague threats that Raffensperger and his general counsel could face “a big risk” if they failed to do so.

Trump repeatedly and falsely claims during the hour-long conversation that he won Georgia, an assertion that has been refuted in recounts and in the courts.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” the president tells Raffensperger. “You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, rebuffs Trump’s claims telling him: “Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”

Harris, the vice president-elect, slammed Trump’s call during a campaign stop in Georgia on Sunday as a “bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States.”

Harris also stressed the importance of Tuesday’s Senate votes. “Everything is at stake,” she said. “The future of our country will be very much in the mix.”

The Georgia elections come one day ahead of the certification by the House of Representatives and Senate of the Electoral College votes from the November presidential election.

Biden won 306 of the Electoral College votes that represent the returns of the popular vote in each of the US states, while Trump won 232.

Certification by Congress is generally just a formality but more than 100 Republican members of the House and about a dozen Senate Republicans have said they plan to raise objections.

At least one member of the House and one member of the Senate needs to lodge an objection to certification to send it to the floor for debate and a vote.

A vote would be doomed to failure, however, in the Democratic-controlled House and would also be unlikely to pass in the Republican-majority Senate, where a number of Republican senators have already acknowledged Biden’s victory.

Trump lashed out on Twitter on Monday at Republican lawmakers who have refused to line up behind his baseless claims of voter fraud.

“How can you certify an election when the numbers being certified are verifiably WRONG,” he said.

“The ‘Surrender Caucus’ within the Republican Party will go down in infamy as weak and ineffective ‘guardians’ of our Nation, who were willing to accept the certification of fraudulent presidential numbers!” he added. – AFP

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Pope appears for first time since sciatica revealed

Cardinal Pietro Parolin (2ndR) celebrated New Year mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, in the absence of Pope Francis. AFP Photo

Pope Francis appeared in public Friday for the first time since skipping New Year’s masses at St Peter’s Basilica because of a bout of sciatica.

Standing behind a desk and next to a Christmas tree and a nativity scene, the pontiff led the traditional Angelus prayers in the Apostolic Palace.

“I send you all my best wishes for peace and serenity in the new year,” he said.

“The painful events which marked the life of humanity last year, in particular the pandemic, taught us how necessary it is to take an interest in the problems of others and share their concerns.”

The Vatican announced Thursday that Francis would be unable to celebrate New Year’s masses Thursday evening and Friday morning because he was suffering from sciatica, a chronic nerve condition causing hip pain for the 84-year-old.

Shortly before Christmas, two cardinals in the pope’s entourage contracted Covid-19, raising fears that Francis, who rarely wears a mask, risked infection.

During Italy’s first lockdown in March, Francis initially delivered his Sunday Angelus prayers from the Vatican library instead of his usual window overlooking crowds on Saint Peter’s Square.

The restriction prompted him to say he felt “caged”, and he made several brief appearances at the window, greeting the few people who ventured out into the vast square.

The pope has a risk factor for the coronavirus aside from his advanced age. When he was 21 years old in 1957, he suffered from severe pleurisy, requiring surgery to remove part of his right lung, according to biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The Vatican has not yet indicated when the pope may be vaccinated against Covid-19. — AFP


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Sarawak reaches out to 1.1 bln audiences digitally in 2020

Karim delivers his opening speech during Sarawak Tourism Board’s media night on Wednesday. — Photo by Chimon Upon


KUCHING: The Covid-19 pandemic did not deter Sarawak Tourism Board from continuing its efforts to promote Sarawak to a global audience, said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“I would like to highlight something very key for Sarawak tourism, that we received tremendous support from you (the media) in our efforts to promote our beautiful land to the world.

“Our year-end reports indicate that we had reached an astounding 1.1 billion over audiences throughout 2020 with our stories and initiatives, despite the global pandemic.

“As our borders gradually start to open, we hope to continue to reach out to many more prospective visitors to ensure Sarawak remains top-of-mind and hopefully entice them to visit once it is safe to travel again,” Karim said in his speech during Sarawak Tourism Board’s media night in Kuching on Wednesday.

The minister affirmed that it has been tough for the tourism industry the world over.

“But it is through the media, that we are able to bring about more than a billion people virtually to Sarawak, and have hopefully, somehow enticed them to visit once it is safe to travel again,” he continued.

“Thank you again for the effort in making our vision to increase the visibility and awareness of our beautiful Sarawak to the world, a reality.”

During the down time, Karim said his ministry has been continuously strategising and re-strategising to prepare and ensure comprehensive tourism recovery plans, to improve and rebuild destinations in preparation for 2021 and the post-pandemic era.

Though the Covid-19 may not be fully over next year, Karim was optimistic to see increased travel activities with the opening of greenzones and travel bubble with the possibility of the opening of borders within the region.

“We had earlier in the year announced two initiatives which include the Visitors Incentive Package (VIP) for travel agencies and the Sarawak Tourism Online Ecosystem Fund, a catalytic programmes to expand Sarawak Tourism’s digital footprint and Share of Voice in collaboration with industry partners,” he detailed.

“In August, we launched the “Sia Sitok Sarawak” Intra-state Travel Campaign for Sarawakians and Residents of Sarawak, which had received very good response from the locals, and had helped support and sustain our local tourism.

“Sarawak was also the first to collaborate with GRAB Malaysia to introduce the e-hailing online-based learning Ambassadors Programme, for e-hailing drivers, to enhance their knowledge on Sarawak, to become tourism ambassadors in time for the influx of tourists once the borders are open.

“Early next year, we hope to announce our much anticipated inter-state campaign for Peninsular Malaysians to visit Sarawak.”

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Eating right to achieve sports excellence

Jennet prepares recovery juices for the athletes. — Photos courtesy of Sarawak Sports Corporation HPU

SPORTS nutrition is very important for athletes because at the most basic level, it provides a source of energy required to perform in the competition arena.

The food athletes eat impacts on their strength, training, results and recovery. In particular, diet plays a crucial role in the enhancement of performances by providing fuel to the muscles and for body fluid replacement.

Sufficient energy should come from a variety of foods that provide the athletes with enough carbohydrates, protein, fat and micronutrients to prevent injuries and enhance performance.

Jennet conducting a workshop in October this year in Sibu for state volleyballers on post-exercise recovery which promotes fast recovery after training and prevents injuries.

Sports nutritionist Jennet Judith Unying explained: “The purpose of having sports nutrition is to provide information on food and good dietary practices among the athletes to maximise performance and help develop sound nutritional habits, including preparation and food types that can benefit performance and increase the awareness of the athletes towards a healthy balanced lifestyle.”

Jennet, who began her stint with the Sarawak High-Performance Unit in October last year, tests and assesses the athletes to check if they are getting proper nutrition.

“The assessments are on body composition and hydration status. I provide consultation on nutrition.

“Some athletes have a constant issue with bodyweight with some wanting to lose weight and some wanting to gain weight in a good way,” she said.

Jennet conducts one-to-one sessions with the athletes, providing with them menu-planning and checking – within a specific month – to see if they have achieved the set target, then following up with treatment and advice, if need be.

“I conduct talks and workshops on nutritional education and coaches are invited to attend.

“They can help keep an eye on the athletes.

“Later, parents will also be invited for the educational sessions. They need to know and understand what we’re doing for their children.

“During the sessions, athletes are required to write down what food they eat to see if they’re eating the right food,” she elaborated.

Dietary awareness

Fried foods are a no-no because they burn up energy and spicy foods are also strongly discouraged.

A young diver taking a body composition analysis.

The athletes need to know what is the “real food” they should eat and what food is good for recovery.

Jennet joins the athletes during shopping to advise them on the best choice of food.

Although she also looks after the athletes from Centre of Excellence and Centre of Development, her main focus is on the elite athletes.

With over 24 sports and almost 200 athletes to look after, she conducts workshops on requests from the sports development officers.

Jennet works closely with the Strength and Conditioning (S&C) unit, the Sports Psychology unit and others within the High-Performance Unit apart from senior nutritionists in ISN to get the latest updates and case studies on training regimens and nutrition.

“I ask the S&C unit what kind of training the athletes are getting so l can prepare the right kind of fruit juices to aid their recovery.

“For example, if the athletes do hypertrophy training, l prepare hypertrophy juices to help them recover after the exercise.

The former quality controller of a food company will be setting up a recovery bar at the Sarawak Sports Corporation (SCC) Gym in the Sarawak Stadium to prepare recovery juices for the athletes based on the type of training and workouts in the gym.

“I need to make sure the athletes have a good recovery and prevent them from getting injured,” she stressed.

Apart from teaching the athletes how to prepare their dietary requirements, Jennet also provides them with supplements, especially the elite athletes.

“The supplements will be given based on the needs of individual athletes and the nature of their sports.

“If the sports require the athletes to grow muscles, we give them supplements which have heavy proteins for faster absorption, repair and re-building after training.”

Greatest challenge

Her greatest challenge is time management to help the targeted group of athletes.

She is on a seven-day work schedule as some athletes are young and cannot come for assessment because of school on weekdays. To go for an assessment, the athletes need to fast.

Jennet is grateful for the few weeks of assistance from four students from Universiti Malaysia Sabah who completed their internship at HPU last month.

The SSC is looking to get two more staffers to help Jennet with the supplements, one to be stationed permanently in Sibu to cater to the elite athletes training in the Central and Northern Zones.

For now, a staffer from Sarawak State Sports Council will be assigned to help her.

Although the work is hectic, Jennet enjoys it because she loves to help and see fellow Sarawakians excel in sports and go on to compete at the highest level.

Sports psychology

Athletes must not only have proper nutrition and undergo physical and fitness training but also be well prepared mentally for competitions.

HPU sports psychologists Chong Siew Kian and Rejina Jasin are fully occupied with athletes from over 30 sports.

Chong conducting a sports psychology programme for the state Sukma netball team in Sibu in September this year.

They help the athletes cope with competition pressures and enhance their performance by using various mental strategies such as visualisation, self-talk and relaxation techniques to help them achieve their full potential.

Chong joined the Sarawak Sports Corporation in 2017 and became a member of the High-Performance Unit (HPU) in October last year.

“We try to inspire the athletes. It depends on them and what they want.

“Support from schools and parents and the athletes’ commitment to training are very important,” she pointed out.

Pre-match jitters

According to Chong, athletes tend to experience pre-match anxiety, of which there are two types – cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety.

“The athletes need to overcome stress to perform to their potential. They also need to be educated on the importance of mental toughness and getting treatment, if they are injured, via one-to-one sessions.”

Chong and Rejina are attached to the teams during centralised and decentralised training to observe the athletes and find out what their problems are.

“We also follow the athletes to competitions because we want to know and understand their sports better. When the athletes compete to gain exposure, we want to gauge their potential from a psychological perspective.

“We work closely with the coaches who are willing to accept us to overcome the various mental obstacles experienced by their athletes.

“There’re some experienced coaches who do not respond well to us and our services because they may have undergone various sports science courses and gained knowledge from websites and feel they can train the athletes to achieve a high level of performance.

“In some cases, the athletes might not be ready for our intervention,” Chong noted.

Urine samples are taken from the athletes to check their hydration status.

Generally, Chong and Rejina conduct motivation and team-building camps, seminars and workshops where the coaches are invited.

“Our biggest challenge is that time is not on our side and we’re a small unit. Now with Covid-19 and the Standard Operating Procedures to follow, there are limitations, especially in the attendance of the participants and the need for social distancing. There are many activities not advisable to conduct.

“During the Movement Control Order, we conducted online psychology sessions and provided the athletes and coaches with vital information.

“The athletes were asked to do goal-setting and we also encouraged the coaches to do goal-setting for the athletes,” Chong disclosed.

She pointed out that both coaches and athletes alike must understand it is a long-term process to build up mental strength and confidence.

“You don’t produce medal winners in one week or one month,” she said.

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Transforming Sarawak’s public transportation system

Mazli (sixth right) presents a token of appreciation to Association of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Datuk Tan Jit Kee during a recent engagement session with association members.

ONE of the state government’s main agendas is to transform Sarawak’s public transportation system.

As Sarawak aspires to achieve its vision of becoming a developed and high-income state by 2030, a reliable transportation system is vital to ensuring greater productivity and economic growth.

The Kuching Urban Transportation System (KUTS) is a government-initiated project established in line with the state’s digital transformation agenda and the development of the Smart City initiative to address the need for a modern public transportation system.

It serves as a backbone system to minimise and alleviate traffic congestion towards Kuching’s city centre by improving connectivity via an efficient and integrated public transportation system.

Undertaking this development project is Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd (Sarawak Metro), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC).

Incorporated in February 2018, Sarawak Metro will be the implementer of the KUTS project as well as the ART system, similar to MRT Corp’s and Prasarana’s role in Peninsular Malaysia.

The proposed integrated transit map for the ART, which is subject to final alignment design changes.

Heading the company is chief executive officer Mazli Mustaffa, who has more than 22 years of experience in the railway and urban transportation industry after having worked in Malaysia and the Middle East, overseeing railway and metro projects.

“The KUTS is a government initiative project and we have the mandate to realise this project into reality and serve its main objective of alleviating traffic congestion in the greater Kuching area,” he said.

Among its objectives and benefits include providing ease of movements and linking dense residential areas, businesses, industrial areas, higher learning institutions, as well as places of interest for tourism; creating more economic opportunities, enabling trade, and facilitating access to markets and services; introducing and promoting green technology via adoption of hydrogen-powered rolling stock and feeder buses; creating job opportunities; and encouraging participation of other public transport providers in complementing the ART system.

KUTS will be developed in stages, with the project’s civil and structural works expected to commence in 2022, while the project’s system works are expected to begin the following year.

The first phase of the project will involve the construction of two urban lines covering a total distance of about 50km.

The Blue Line (Samarahan Line), which runs from Rembus in Kota Samarahan to Hikmah Exchange, covers a distance of about 27km with stops at 14 stations, while the Red Line (Serian Line), which runs from Mile 12 Kuching-Serian Road to The Isthmus, will cover a distance of about 23km with stops at 13 stations.

Most sections of the two lines will be constructed at-grade (at road level) with some sections elevated, especially in highly dense areas in the city centre.

The first and last mile connectivity for the stations will be serviced by hydrogen fuel-cell feeder buses.

At the core of the KUTS project is the ART, which has been deemed more feasible by the state government than the LRT due to the cost effectiveness of the system.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said ART is one-third cheaper to build than the LRT as it does not run on rail tracks.

“You don’t need to build rails but build dedicated lanes for it, such as widening the roads,” he said at an event last year.

The ART vehicle, which is a hybrid between a bus, train, and tram, runs on a dedicated lane and not on steel tracks like the LRT. It uses rubber tyres and can run on normal road type surfaces. This significantly reduces construction costs and time.

It will also be equipped with optical sensors and intelligent navigation systems to enhance manoeuvrability and accuracy, as well as a reliable communications system.

For KUTS, the ART system will have a three-car set rolling stock with a maximum capacity of 300 passengers.

The normal service operating speed for ART will be 35km/h, which can reach a maximum designed speed of 70km/h.

The ART vehicle will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, in tandem with the state government’s aspiration to develop the hydrogen economy and realise the government’s Green Hydrogen Agenda in becoming an important producer of green hydrogen for the region.

The choice of using hydrogen fuel cell to power the ART is also in support of the government’s move to decarbonise Sarawak’s public transportation system.

“This project also provides a platform for the introduction and promotion of green hydrogen technology in public transportation,” Mazli said adding that public support is vital to ensure the smooth and successful implementation of this project.

Once in operation, Sarawak’s ART will be the first vehicle of its kind in the world to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The Sarawak Metro team has a discussion with Kuching South Mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng (seated centre) during a courtesy call.

Abang Johari had previously stated that the ART transport system is expected to be ready by 2025.

“When we are already there, then we can go towards 2030 because the moment the Kuching-Samarahan lane has been completed, our public transport will have been improved.

“Then, we can go towards achieving a developed state in 2030, including in terms of public transport,” he told reporters at a press conference last year.

Since starting operations in September last year, Sarawak Metro has engaged with among others the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) to ensure the KUTS development is in line with the state government’s digital transformation agenda as well as the overall development plans for the state.

It has also embarked on the Environmental, Social and Heritage Impact Assessment (ESHIA), which apart from looking to minimise environmental and social impact, aims to ensure that places or areas with important heritage value for the city and state will be protected during the development of the KUTS project.

(From left) Mazli Mustaffa, Henry Mayot, Alice Sandah and Priscilla Annabel Bisop.

The company currently has a workforce of more than 40, made up of experienced and skilled manpower in diverse disciplines and expertise.

Among the diverse workforce are local Sarawakian talents, who have vast experience in the rail and transportation industry either from working in the federal capital or overseas.

Some of these talents intentionally returned to Sarawak to share their work experience and expertise in developing the KUTS project.

One of these talents is Sarawak Metro Communication System (KUTS) senior project manager Henry Mayot, who decided to return to Sarawak to work with Sarawak Metro so that he could share his experience in developing the KUTS project.

“I am fortunate to have worked on two of the mega railway projects in Malaysia, namely the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) for Putrajaya Line and the Kajang Line, which gave me the opportunity to gain so much knowledge and experience.

“I was actively involved in the tender preparation, tender evaluation, design, supplier and material selection, system and civil interface, construction, as well as testing and commissioning. These experiences are extremely useful for me as it makes me well-prepared when the KUTS project goes through the same cycle,” he said.

Henry, who has more than 20 years of experience in communications systems, previously worked in Kuala Lumpur, as well as Korea, Australia, and Indonesia.

He hoped to see more Sarawakians with the right expertise and knowledge coming back to the state to work and be part of the exciting history that is KUTS.

Like Henry, Sarawak Metro project manager (Civil-KUTS) Alice Sandah was also involved in mega railway projects such as the KVMRT and the LRT Ampang Extension Line.

“When I was involved in these railway projects, the nature of work for these fast-paced projects was very tough as you needed to be on-call 24/7, be on-site during odd hours, and manage clients’ expectations, deliverables, and timelines. That was challenging,” she said.

Her opportunity to come back and serve in the state was back in mid-2019 when she worked with a Pan Borneo Highway contractor.

“Looking back at what I have gone through, I realise that coming back to my own hometown was the best decision I have made in my career,” she said.

As for Priscilla Annabel Bisop, Sarawak Metro’s Socio-Economic Enhancement and Development Programme (SEED) Manager, she began her career with the Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) in Cyberjaya, Selangor.

She worked in MIGHT for more than 10 years, and was very much involved in research and consultancy services for industrial development and high technologies areas.

“My experience working outside of Sarawak has not only toughened me from being a shy person to become more confident and independent, but has also broadened my outlook.”

She believes that the KUTS project is highly anticipated by the public as it will greatly improve mobility as well as boost economic activities especially along the transit corridor.

“This SEED programme is also something new in Sarawak and Sarawak Metro is proud to initiate it. This programme not only fosters partnership between local and international project proponents but also allows for opportunities for collaboration in R&D, human capital development, and the creation of more jobs and economic opportunities.”

Creating opportunities for local workforce and industry players through ART project

The main objective of the Kuching Urban Transportation (KUTS) system project and the development of the ART is to provide the people of Greater Kuching with a more convenient and comfortable experience in commuting.

With the adoption of hydrogen fuel technology, the ART system also aims to help in improving the air quality as well as the overall quality of life in this Healthy City.

Another benefit for the people of Sarawak from the KUTS project and implementation of the ART is the opportunity to develop the local workforce and create more business opportunities in this new ‘green rapid transit’ industry.

According to Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Mazli Mustaffa this can be achieved by ensuring that the companies providing the technology and equipment for the KUTS project collaborate closely with local industry players in the State.

“From the lessons learned during our time working on the rail projects in Peninsular Malaysia, it is crucial for us to have a close collaboration with the equipment and technology providers.

“Through Sarawak Metro’s Socio-Economic Enhancement Development Programme (SEED), our goal is to ensure that Sarawakian companies will benefit from the transfer of technology; and that our local workforce, especially the youth, will benefit from the transfer of knowledge and skills,” he said.

The idea behind SEED is similar to the Offset/ Industrial Collaboration Programme that has been implemented in Peninsular Malaysia, mainly for Federal Government-funded development projects, such as the MRT projects.

The programme will not only create partnerships between the local and international firms involved in the KUTS project, but also generate more opportunities for collaboration in R&D and human capital development.

As such, through SEED, Sarawak Metro aims to establish a pool of skilled Sarawakian workers for the green public transport industry as well as create a platform for transferring knowledge and expertise.

Sarawak Metro has also designed this programme to focus on activities related to economic, technological and industrial development, in line with Sarawak’s aspiration to become a high-income and developed state by the year 2030.

The hydrogen buses are currently running a trial operation service around Kuching city.

Managing Sarawak’s hydrogen buses

MALAYSIA became the first country in the region to have hydrogen-powered buses on its streets, when Sarawak introduced the hydrogen bus service in Kuching early this year.

Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), which started the service in January, has entrusted its wholly-owned subsidiary Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd (Sarawak Metro) to manage the hydrogen bus operation.

Currently, the three hydrogen buses are undergoing trial operations meant for data collection.

This is mainly to prepare for Sarawak’s future plan to adopt hydrogen-powered feeder buses to complement the Kuching Urban Transportation System (KUTS) by providing first mile and last mile connectivity to the ART stations.

The data gathered during this trial operation would also be vital for the government to plan for the future of public transportation in Sarawak.

In September, Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin went on the Downtown Heritage Loop route and expressed his satisfaction with the resumption of the trial run of the hydrogen bus service, which had been temporarily halted.

He said the trial operation period was important to the state government and the bus manufacturer, in that it would gather data in preparation for future public transportation plans in the state, including the proposed adoption of hydrogen powered feeder buses for the ART system.

The trial operation service of the hydrogen bus was introduced in January this year but the operation was temporarily halted in March due to the MCO. The trial operation service resumed in September when the initial RMCO ended on Aug 31.

(From front left) Lee and his ministry’s permanent secretary Datu Buckland Bangik interact with a passenger on the hydrogen bus.

The resumption of the trial operation was conducted in accordance with the government’s SOP including temperature scanning of passengers and adhering to physical distancing requirements.
During the trial operations, the bus service is free for the public.

The buses undergo scheduled servicing and inspections, and have received the mandatory approvals from the relevant government agencies such as the CVLB, RTD, and Puspakom to ensure their reliability and roadworthiness.

The current trial operation service operates every Monday to Friday and travels along the Downtown Heritage Loop.

There are departures daily from the Riverside Majestic Hotel bus stop at 8am, 10am, 2pm, and 5pm.

Sarawak Metro plans to introduce an expanded route for the hydrogen bus next year that will also involve more trips as well.

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